Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third film in the Fantastic Beasts prequel series, set in the wizarding world during a time before Harry Potter. The franchise is based very loosely on an educational textbook from the Harry Potter series and this third instalment plunges us into a complicated, pointless story that is sadly lacking in any magic whatsoever.
Set some time after the events of 2018’s Crimes of Grindelwald, the film opens with a meeting between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (the newly cast Mads Mikkelsen) in which it is revealed that the pair used to be lovers and, due to a blood pact, they are unable to act against each other without painful and deadly consequences. Grindelwald has been growing in power and is now attempting to gain political control of the wizarding world. To do so, he enlists the help of his followers and Credence (Ezra Miller) to track down a magical creature known as a Qilin, which is due to give birth.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is also on the trail of the Qilin and manages to reach the creature first. He’s attacked by Credence who takes the baby, but unbeknownst to them the Qilin has had twins and Newt is able to save the younger. Newt takes the Qilin to Dumbledore who enlists him alongside his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams) and Yusuf Karma (William Nadylam) to take down Grindelwald as he’s unable to do so himself.
Grindelwald continues his infiltration of wizard politics with the help of his acolytes and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), killing the Qilin brought to him by Credence to give him precognitive powers. Meanwhile Dumbledore and his team attempt to prevent him from gaining power by stopping his attempts to hinder his political opponents and keeping the remaining Qilin out of his grasp. But with Grindelwald thwarting their attempts, the team struggle to prevent him from bringing war to both the wizarding and muggle worlds.
Sadly, The Secrets of Dumbledore is as confused and dull as it sounds, with a plot that bounces between nonsensical, boring and just plain ridiculous. There’s no magic or intrigue, and half of the film is monotonous political dialogue that is incredibly dull and uninteresting. There’s no central point of focus and the majority of scenes seem to play out to nothing, and with a run time of nearly 2.5 hours, I struggled to make head nor tail of what on earth was going on. In the end I just gave up. There are some action scenes thrown in to liven it up a little, but most of these are so full of sometimes questionable CGI that it’s again difficult to figure out what’s happening.
Three films in, the Fantastic Beasts series has started to become tedious for me and this is especially so for most of the characters. I was never a fan of muggle Kowalski and while he does at least provide a tiny bit of much needed comic relief, he’s still an irritation and so is his on and off again romance with witch Queenie. Even Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt has become tiresome – what was once dorky and adorable has become tired and one-note. I do think Jude Law is great and charismatic as Dumbledore and Mads Mikkelsen is a welcome addition as a very subtle yet sinister Grindelwald, but Richard Coyle as Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth has been criminally underutilised. I also question what the point was in shoehorning Katherine Waterston’s Tina in right at the end with no real purpose.
While the first Fantastic Beasts film wasn’t too bad and the second not quite as good, it’s incredibly evident from this third instalment that this franchise has become tired and convoluted and is just an unnecessary cash-in to rinse the wizarding world for all it is worth. The relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald might have been something worth watching had it been executed better but attempting to tie this in with other parts of the world created in Harry Potter is just needless. And most worrying of all, the ending has been left open enough to potentially allow yet another sequel.
Overall Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a lacklustre, confusing effort that makes the wizarding community as dull and unmagical as our muggle world and has little in the way of redeeming qualities.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!